Why Two Competing News ‘Indies’ in Suburban Charlotte Are Teaming Up
It’s relentless — digital continues to gain dominance over print. Except where it doesn’t, like in the middle-class suburbs of Davidson, Cornelius and Lake Norman in metro Charlotte. The independent digital community news site Davidson News, founded in 2006, and sister site Cornelius News (2011) are teaming up with six-year-old print-based Citizen Media Group, which publishes the 25,000-circulation weekly Lake Norman Citizen, whose coverage area includes Davidson and Cornelius, and the 30,000-circulation quarterly Feelin’ Good magazine, which is distributed in the three communities.
Starting this month, sales representatives from the two partner groups are offering businesses a range of advertising choices in print and on digital platforms. The partners also are working with startup LKNJobs.com to offer web-based help-wanted services.
To see why these competing “indies” decided to partner, and what they hope to achieve, we spoke recently with Davidson News founder and publisher/editor David Boraks and Lake Norman Citizen editor Andrew Warfield:
Your publications have both been around for a while. What made this the right thing to do at this time?
Boraks: We’re both looking for ways to sell more advertising and to give existing advertisers a way to reach the widest audience in our market. With this partnership, we’ll be able to offer local advertisers a comprehensive package of advertising with the Lake Norman area’s top news outlets.
Warfield: Because our expertise lies in print, we were never able to fully maximize the value of our own web presence. David not only has a background in print, but he also has pioneered community journalism on the web, so this seemed like an ideal fit to offer advertisers a combination of platforms to achieve the highest value from their advertising dollar.
Did other competition in your market help drive what you’re doing?
Boraks: In part. We’re looking for an edge as we try to give advertisers the best possible way to reach their target. We also know they’re overwhelmed by choices here, and we’re trying to simplify their decisions by giving them one point of contact to hit the whole market.
Warfield: Competition is always a motivating factor in this or any other business. We look at this as a way to combine the forces of the most talented and by far most experienced journalists in the market to ensure for advertisers that their dollars are well spent based on the readership both of our entities has developed.
What, specifically, will the partnership be able to deliver to advertisers in numbers)?
Boraks: The agreement creates the largest advertising network in the Lake Norman area. The Lake Norman Citizen distributes 25,000 print copies weekly and Feelin’ Good magazine distributes 30,000 quarterly. The Lake Norman news network of CorneliusNews.net andDavidsonNews.net now reaches more than 100,000 unique visitors (readers) monthly across the region.
Warfield: The numbers David quotes detail the reach of our partnership. And, as Citizen Media Group Publisher Kim Clark says: “This partnership will allow account representatives from both Citizen Media and Davidson News LLC to offer advertising opportunities across multiple platforms to reach the broadest audience possible at an affordable cost.”
How about readers – what added value in content will they get?
Boraks: We’re still working out the content side of the partnership … It’s safe to say we’ll share content in topics/areas where we don’t overlap. And content sharing is really just a sideline here — the advertising package is the key.
Warfield: This is primarily a business arrangement. Certainly there will be content that we can share with readers of both publications, and that, in large part, will be a function of helping us to maximize our existing resources. Exactly what that content sharing will look like will be a continually developing process.
Will the partnership result in any cost savings in staffing or elsewhere in operations?
Boraks: No, cost savings weren’t a factor in the decision to partner.
Warfield: No cost-savings per se, but we can both stretch our resources in situations where one of us is covering a story or event that the other could use, and that the nature of the content makes sense to share. Also, cross-promotion of content will increase exposure of our advertisers.
If your partnership achieves its goals, might it be broadened?
Boraks: We’ve discussed other possibilities, but it’s too early to say.
Do you see community news sites elsewhere that share a market forming similar partnerships?
Boraks: Not sure I’ve seen anything quite like this … Although you might look at local/regional ad networks elsewhere as similar … We (DavidsonNews.net/CorneliusNews.net) also have a content partnership with a public radio station WFAE-FM in Charlotte, strictly for news.
Warfield: I don’t know that any newspaper anywhere has fully figured out how to combine web and print in a singular business model, and we were no different at the Citizen. Our website is mostly archival with occasional breaking news and other content we could not fit in print. However, this partnership allows us to marry two well-established platforms and provide businesses with the knowledge they’re purchasing advertisements in two of the best-written, best-produced and highly read products in the market with one buy.
Tom Grubisich (@TomGrubisich) writes “The New News” column for Street Fight. He is editorial director of the in-development hyperlocal news network Local America that rates communities on their performance across a broad spectrum of livability — Local America Charleston launched earlier this year.